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Ditch the stress, young grasshopper. (voices).

MERION, PENNSYLVANIA -- American teens are pushed into believing that if we fail to participate in every possible activity, we won't succeed in life or, worse yet, we won't get into Harvard. This has created a generation of exhausted, overachieving teenagers. Squeezed by endless soccer practices and Science Olympiads, we seldom have time to stop to smell the proverbial roses.

I used to believe that I had little chance of becoming a happy, productive person if my resume was not chock-full of activities. I spent years taking trombone and piano lessons, and art classes. I made many feeble attempts at throwing a basketball around a court. I finally realized I wasn't going to be the next Lisa Leslie of the WNBA. In fact, all I had to show for my work was a phobia of piano practice, a few unimpressive canvases, and a weak foul shot.

I set out to find what I could do purely for enjoyment. Surfing TV channels one day, I came across a program on yoga. I twisted and stretched along with the host and her blandly smiling students until I realized that I had found my passion.

My previous image of yoga was of Mr. Miyagi in The Karate Kid contorting the body of his disciple into pretzel-like shapes, bowing wisely, and saying, "I have taught you well, young grasshopper." Real yoga, an ancient practice that is part exercise, part stretching, and part meditation, turned out to be much deeper than a Hollywood movie about some elder sage or a TV show with a Spandex-covered host.

When I do yoga, I concentrate solely on breathing, clearing my mind and pushing my body as far as it will stretch. I focus inward, instead of seeking to impress others. By doing so, I feel a calming sense of completion wash over me. I feel frustration and stress melt off my forehead.

Every day, I take yoga's philosophy into the real world. It teaches me to strive to be more patient and compassionate. I know that I may not get recognition in school or from my future college-admissions officer for these efforts. I will not hear on the loudspeaker the morning announcement: "In other sports news, Nicole's lotus position has improved a hundred and ten percent!"

Can I be on a yoga team in school? Nope. Will I earn a yoga scholarship to college? No such luck. But I am doing something I love, instead of feeling compelled to meet the expectations of others. Imagine our world if we all found and followed what we enjoy, instead of worrying about fulfilling somebody else's definition of well-rounded.
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Author:Kligerman, Nicole
Publication:New York Times Upfront
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 21, 2003
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